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RE: Mail order catalogues was Re: Cognition Simulation

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 20:32:53 -0700
To: "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
CMN = Charles McCathieNeville
> CMN: Clearly, we are trying to aid comprehension. I hope and
> believe that we all recognise that multimedia needs to be
> appropriate (not just graphics - as the response to my own
> effort shows, the sound can be really important).

First, I am not sure that it is clear at all what we are trying to do. It is
certainly not clear to me. How clear will it be to readers of the

Assuming that we are clear on it in this group, the next step is to make it
clear in the guidelines: The reason we are recommending multimedia is
because it aids comprehensibility. This must be weighed against the problems
associated with limited bandwidth connections and older equipment. If a
graphic (or text) is not necessary for comprehension, it should probably be

> CMN: How relelvant something is depends on what is already there. A first
> picture of George Washington might be relevant. A fifteenth is
> less likely to be so in any context I can imagine. It is also
> important to think  about how relevant something is - clarity is
> important in graphics as well  as writing, and if the relationship
> is at two or three removes (as described for the
> black cat example) then I think it should not be used as it is
> likely not to be understood. With a bit more thinking we could even
> work out a good way to express this point.

It is not at all clear that relevance depends on what is already there. In
fact, I don't think that relevance has anything to do with superfluity. When
judging relevance, I would look at each object individually in its
relationship to the topic. Thus every image of George would be relevant.

To me, a better judge is whether the image adds anything to the
comprehensibility of the *page*. Now we are looking at it from the other
direction. Instead of saying "I have an image. Is this relevant to the
topic?" we are saying "The topic of this page is George Washington. What
images (etc.) do I need to make this topic comprehensible?"

In other words, we are not trying to find homes for all our favorite
graphics, we are trying to make our pages comprehensible.

> CMN: I believe that our WCAG 2 checkponts on writing clearly and
> simply, and on using multimedia, are too broad to be good checkpoints
> (although they make guidelines-level statements I think they are
> too closely related to other stuff to be a guideline on their
> own). SImilarly I think that "minimise bandwidth" is too broad
> a checkpoint.

I agree partly. Yes, clear and simple is not specific enough. This really is
just a rewrite of "make pages comprehensible." Thus it restates our
premises. The checkpoint on using multimedia is a little better, although I
am working on a version that I think captures more of what we are trying to
say. But as for "minimize bandwidth" being too broad, I can't agree. Could
it be more specific? Yes, and perhaps it should be. But unlike the "clear
and simple" admonition, it is NOT obvious from any of the other checkpoints.
I think that it is something that needs to be spelled out very clearly
somewhere in the guidelines. But I also believe that there are some in this
group who do not agree that minimization of bandwidth is an accessibility
concern at all.

> CMN: The requirement is implicit in ensuring
> that peole can use text-only browsers, and in looking for
> appropriate formats
> (again, we don't go far enough into that one yet but I suspect it
> is more a matter of techniques).

I disagree. First, it is not particularly implicit. The issue with text-only
browsers and appropriate formats has to do with making sure that all the
content is available in text format, so that those who can't see the images
still get the idea.

This does nothing for a poor person with a cognitive disability who needs to
see the graphics but has a slow connection and an old computer. Do people
with cognitive disabilities tend to be wealthier or poorer than those
without? I would guess poorer, given our societies' attitudes toward people
with disabilities. How does adding alt attributes help them? It doesn't. How
does adding alt attributes minimize bandwidth use? It doesn't.

Second, things that are implicit in the guidelines will be overlooked. The
guidelines must be as *explicit* as possible. And putting key issues into
the Techniques document is not sufficient: most readers will never look at
the Techniques document.

Minimizing bandwidth will be a major issue for accessibility worldwide for a
long time. Unless we are only concerned for users in the First World, we
need to include something in the guidelines that *explicitly* states that
bandwidth should be conserved. That doesn't mean don't use images, etc. It
means make each one count.

Similarly, I agree that checkpoint 3.3 is way too broad -- so broad that it
says effectively nothing. Maybe this can be countered in the Success
Criteria. I'd rather see it in the checkpoint itself. I'm slowly struggling
with some ideas for how to achieve this.

But one thing that I am adamant about: All the issues of clarity and
simplicity and comprehensibility regarding text apply equally to non-text
content. There should be no distinction made in the guidelines because there
is no distinction for the user. All content should be clear and simple (as
appropriate to the circumstances).

> Yes, and with some familiarity with your work I had not expected
> to see such
> rubbish proposed without clearer explanation that it is a "don't"
> example. (I
> admit that it is clearer that this was possible on re-reading the thread.
> Rhetoric is difficult in an email list where people have limited
> time to try
> and understand).

Had I meant it as a "don't" example, I would have made that clear. But I'm
not teaching the members of this group how to make web sites (I wouldn't
presume). I was making a point in an argument about what *will* happen if we
are not clearer about how graphics should be used on Web pages. Given the
immense number of truly awful sites that have cropped up since Mark
Andreessen and company turned the Web into a visual medium, it is downright
irresponsible of us to tell users to add graphics to their Web pages without
providing some clear indication as to how those graphics should be
applied -- *at checkpoint level*.

Received on Thursday, 30 August 2001 23:30:34 UTC

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